Updated: Mar 5
I never wanted to be a Kid’s Pastor…but let me start back at the beginning.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I grew up in northeast Tennessee. Son of Baptist preacher (no…that’s not an expletive), in a small church. I loved every minute of my childhood, and think my parents did a pretty great job of raising 4 kids, while doing ministry and protecting us from all the not-so-good things about it.
I have very fond memories of growing up as a PK. I got to meet lots of interesting missionaries and speakers. I knew all the good hiding places in the church building. I was able to serve in the church as a young age. And I got to feast on tons of goodies that church members made for my dad, the pastor. It was a lot of fun.
I also remember how big of a role our little kids ministry had on my life personally. I was saved at the age of six. If I could take you with me, I would fly us all to Johnson City, TN, take you to a brick church on the corner of Wilson Avenue and Hamilton Street, take you downstairs, through a small door, and to a classroom at the end of a small hallway. In that very room, kneeling on a brown tile floor, hands folded on a cold metal folding-chair, is the very place I prayed to receive Christ as my personal Savior.
This room is where we had Jr. Church. My mom was teaching that day, and even though I can’t remember the content of the lesson, or what was said, I can remember making the most important decision of my life—becoming a Christian.
For the next 7 years, I continued to be influenced and taught the truths of God’s Word and what it was to follow Him. Sunday School, VBS, and Jr. Church played a huge role in my growth.
A CLEAR CALL - OR WAS IT?
At age 13, at a camp in West Virginia, I took another huge step in my journey of faith and surrendered to serve God in vocational ministry. I didn’t know what it looked like, or any specific details of God’s plan for my life, but I knew He was calling me.
Let me pause for a second—my parents never prayed for any of their kids to go into ministry. It’s not because they didn’t want us to serve God in that way, or that they hated it themselves. It’s that they knew the hardships that come with ministry. Nevertheless, they encouraged me to follow God and His calling on my life every step of the way.
In my teen years, I felt very strongly that God was calling me to serve Him as a missionary in a foreign country. However, I decided that wasn’t for me, and I was going to find some way to serve God through music (maybe as a worship pastor—or as a Christian music artist…yeah, right!). So, I began to pursue my love for music all through high school and into my first year of college at East Tennessee State University.
It seemed that God was blessing me in this pursuit, as I had a full music scholarship, and was actually MAKING money to go that first year! Crazy! But even in the midst of my “blessings” I kept tuning God out in pursuit of what I WANTED His will for me to be. But that all changed in October of my freshman year in college.
A missionary to the Bahamas, Rick and Fran Schussler, who were long-time friends of our church, came to visit us for a missions conference. I’m sure we had some goofy theme that year, but whatever it was, I can’t remember. All I DO remember is Rick speaking one night about how the average age of missionaries was rising and his challenged to us that night to consider this question: “Who is going to come after us and take our place?” Those words struck me to the core. It was like God spoke to me and said, “It’s YOU!” It’s one of the few times that God’s voice has been supremely, unmistakably clear to me.
That night, I went forward to surrender to be a missionary. Wherever God wanted me to go is where I wanted to be.
The next few months were a whirlwind. I knew I needed to get training, so I applied at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO, and began making plans to major in Intercultural Studies.
Unlike my pursuit of music, I knew without a doubt that God was in this. I saw it in everything that happened over the next several years.
I was placed on a traveling team as a freshman (something freshmen didn’t do)
I met the woman of my dreams and married her (before she realized what she was doing)
Both my wife and I finished our degrees and walked away from college debt-free
I was offered two different positions in churches without applying for them prior to graduating
And, we moved to Ohio and began serving in a wonderful church in Wilmington, Ohio.
I was flying high! Everything was moving along just as planned. And that’s when it all went south…
NOT WHAT I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE
I was hired as the youth pastor in this church of 1,000 people. It was every Bible college graduate’s dream church. And yet, one year into this ministry, the senior pastor took me to lunch and said, “This isn’t working out.”
My heart still races to this day, when I think about that moment. What do you mean this isn’t “working out!?” I am trying really hard here!
All sorts of feelings hit me over the next few days and weeks. Sadness. Anger. Confusion. More anger! I began to blame everyone else for things I didn’t want to take responsibility for. I was mad at the pastor for expecting too much of me. Angry at parents for not liking my teaching methods. Mad at teens for not being more faithful to youth group. I was so mad, I even talked to another church about coming to be the youth pastor for them instead.
After several weeks of stewing in my own juices, an associate pastor at the church who is in heaven today, Chad Fallis, took me aside and told me that I needed to make a decision on how I was going to move forward. He said I could let it destroy me and my ministry, or I could learn from it and move forward to see what God has for me.
I decided that day to move forward and serve God in whatever way he wanted me to (which I was still convinced was as a missionary).
To the senior pastor’s credit, he didn’t fire me, when he very well could have. Instead he put me in a children’s Sunday school class, ASSISTING a non-paid volunteer. Did you catch that? A full-time, salaried, minister of the gospel with a 4-year degree in ministry was ASSISTING a NON-PAID VOLUNTEER!!!!
I have never been so humbled in my life.
AN UNEXPECTED DETOUR
I am a testament to the fact that “God has his way in the whirlwind.” As the weeks went on, I began to do more and more with the Sunday School class. (Assisting is not my wheelhouse.) Then, I began to work with the Jr. Church during service. At first, it was just with the older elementary kids, Then I started doing a combined large group with all the kids before splitting off into smaller groups. Then I took kids to Jr. Camp during the summers. Then I was leading VBS for 400 kids and volunteers. In the end, I became the first official Kid’s Pastor of this church and fell in love with kid’s ministry.
I loved every minute of it! The games, the songs, the lessons, the skits, the hugs, the high-fives, the smiles, the laughter, the whole thing! But still in the back of my mind, I “knew” that God wanted me to go into missionary work. And every time a missionary would visit, or the church would host a missions conference, my wife and I would pray, “God, do you want us to go to that country? Do you want us to go to that people?” And every time, we would hear…nothing.
I am a people-pleaser by nature, and many times would feel like a disappointment and a failure to people who had heard me express my desire to be a missionary. And for many years, even though I was thoroughly enjoying every minute of being a kid’s pastor, I would go home each week feeling like I was somehow missing the mark on God’s call on my life. Why hadn’t I received the same ‘ah-ha’ moment that many of my college friends had experienced when deciding where to serve? Why had God been so silent for so long on what His plans for me and my family were?
It wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that I heard (or finally listened to) God speak again to me clearly.
I was sitting in my office reading George Barna’s book, Building Children into Spiritual Champions1, and I came across the statistics of the age a vast majority of individuals come to Christ. According to that study, upwards of 70% of people who placed their faith in Jesus, did so before the age of 14.
BOOM! It was another moment that God spoke to me. His message to me was, “See…I did call you as a missionary. And you have been serving Me in the biggest mission field in the world. Only it’s not something you can contain with borders or identify on a map. It’s the boys and girls in Ohio you speak to every Sunday. It’s the little ones all across the country that need to hear about me. It’s the children in foreign countries that need my love and truth in their lives. The field I have called you to serve me in is children.”
Such peace entered my life at that point. No longer was I looking for the secret mission that God was calling me TO. Now I was embracing the mission that God had placed me IN. And I am called to serve him in this mission field until He tells me different or takes me home. I have served in two other ministries since that time, including my current ministry as Kid’s Pastor to the kids and families of Grace Community Fellowship in Eugene, Oregon.
Now to finish where I began.
AND NOW, FOR THE REST OF THE STORY
I never actually planned on becoming a Kid’s Pastor, but God called me and equipped me to be one anyway. I am reminded of Proverbs 16:9 which says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” That was never more true than it was in my life.
And maybe it’s the same for you. You never planned on, intended to, or even wanted to be a Kid’s Pastor. But here you are. Somehow, with all your devising and planning to be something else, God directed your steps to serve a mission field of kids.
It’s a high-calling. It’s a crazy calling. It’s an impossible calling, and yet, God has led you to it.
The reason I wrote this is to remind you that you are CALLED. You are CHOSEN. You are being directed by God to do something of the highest importance—to follow Him and lead kids and families to do the same.
That’s God’s plan for you, Kid’s Pastor. And it’s pretty awesome!
* Barna, George, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority, Regal, 2003